As you can probably guess from the company’s name, SmartyPans is building a smart frying pan — which it just demonstrated onstage at TechCrunch’s Hardware Battlefield at CES.
As explained to me by CTO Rahul Baxi (he co-founded the company with his sister Prachi Baxi, a nutritionist), SmartyPans aims to make it easier for users to track nutrition and recipe information.
I’ve used other food-tracking services, and they tend to focus on general advice (i.e. “You’re drinking alcohol! Alcohol is bad!”) or involve a lot of guesswork, such as figuring out how big that burrito really is, and how much of it is beans versus rice versus sour cream.
With SmartyPans, there are sensors built into the pan itself, and it’s also connected to a smartphone app. So when you’re cooking, you just speak out loud to tell the app about each ingredient that you’re adding. (You can add more detail and specificity later on in case you don’t want to get distracted while you’re cooking.)
This allows SmartyPans to use its weight sensors and determine exactly how much of each ingredient is being included. Baxi said that thanks to the ingredients’ distinctive properties, the sensors can even track how the quantities change during the cooking process.
Afterwards, you’ll have detailed nutrition information about your meal and you can share that data with a nutritionist or dietitian. Plus, you’ll have a detailed record of how you prepared a specific dish, so you can follow those directions in the future and also share with family and friends.
What’s the pan actually like? Unfortunately, no one at TechCrunch has had a chance to try it out yet, but Baxi estimated that he’s cooked more than 60 meals with various prototypes.
“In terms of performance, it works just like a stainless steel pan,” he said. “It takes the right amount of time to heat up, but the heat distribution is a lot better in our product. No matter where you put the pan on the stovetop, you get that uniform heat distribution, so cooking something like an omelette or a crepe is much easier on SmartyPans.”
Baxi added that the real challenge was creating sensors that could stand the heat; SmartyPans has applied for patents in this area. The company now has a “production-ready” prototype, with plans to start shipping the product in April.
A SmartyPans pan is currently available for pre-order for $209.